For veteran AARP volunteer Morey Birenbaum, nothing is more fulfilling than making a difference through volunteering, and he’s not shy about evangelizing on the topic.
“I want everyone to know that AARP is all about serving individuals and communities at the grassroots level. We’re about so much more than passing this bill or stopping that bill,” he said. “There are so many opportunities at AARP for members to do something really meaningful for the community. Everyone needs a purpose in life beyond watching TV.”
Birenbaum started volunteering with AARP in 2000, soon after retiring from a successful career in the import giftware business that took him around the world. In all, he volunteers at least 20 hours a week for AARP and other organizations in the community.
He serves as coordinator of the AARP Nebraska Information Center and is a member of AARP’s statewide executive council. Birenbaum also volunteers for Radio Talking Book, where he reads newspapers to the blind every week; sits on the board of the Diabetes Education Center of the Midlands; helps run a diabetes support group; and serves as treasurer of the Omaha Computer Users Group.
In 2005, he was recognized with an Andrus Award for Community Service for his exceptional record of giving back to the community through volunteering.
And he shows no signs of letting up. His one regret is that he didn’t start sooner.
“I was always too busy working to volunteer,” Birenbaum said. “I wish that I’d been more involved in the community, but I’m giving back in spades now.”
He oversees a team of 50 volunteers who manage the Information Center in Omaha, connecting people 50+ with AARP information and resources in the metro area of one million people.
The center provides AARP publications at no cost, offers monthly educational and entertainment programs, along with services such as free Tax-Aide counseling, Medicare Part D assistance, help with homestead exemption applications, Driver Safety refresher courses, Tai Chi classes and a popular community shredding event every spring.
Birenbaum also points with enthusiasm to classes that the Information Center offers to first-time computer users.
Over the last six years, about 765 students have enrolled in adult computer classes held in the computer lab at Kids Can Community Center. The 9-hour introductory class designed and taught by AARP volunteers is open to adults of any age and is often wait-listed.
“It’s so rewarding to see how much people are able to accomplish over nine hours. They start not knowing anything about computers and we watch their confidence grow by leaps and bounds. That’s why we do it,” he explained.
Every month, volunteers share the task of calling 350 people on the Information Center’s contact list and invite them to attend the upcoming monthly program.
Sometimes the event features pure entertainment such as the “Dancing Grannies,” or a barbershop quartet, while other programs may focus on local history or legislation affecting seniors. On average, 60-70 people attend each time.
“That personal connection we maintain with members is important to keep people interested and engaged,” he said. “They know we care and value their participation.”
Birenbaum is quick to attribute much of the credit for the center’s success to a “superb” volunteer team and support from AARP Nebraska’s state director Connie Benjamin and other AARP staff.
“I love watching people excel at what they do. I’m extremely proud of our volunteers, and the fact that so many have been with us for so long,” he said. “Most stay for years because this is an atmosphere where they meet other people, know their help and skills are really needed and have a feeling of accomplishment from doing something that matters.”
Contact the AARP Information Center at (402) 398-9568 to learn more about the center’s programs and volunteer opportunities in the Omaha area.